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Theater community mourns Hoffman with vigil, Broadway light dimming as 3 face drug charges

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - While three of four people arrested amid the investigation of the Philip Seymour Hoffman's death were arraigned on drug charges, the New York theatre community mourned the actor with a dimming of Broadway's marquee lights and a candlelight vigil.

The vigil Wednesday night was held outside the 90-seat home of the LAByrinth Theatre Company, where Hoffman had long been a member. And at 7:45 p.m., Broadway's lights turned off for a minute.

"We come together tonight in a spirit of terrible mourning and incredible loss," the Rev. Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest and LAByrinth member, told the crowd of about 200 people who stood in a chilly drizzle. "But we also come together to celebrate a remarkable life."

"Courage was his forte, always," said playwright and actor Eric Bogosian, a longtime LAByrinth collaborator. "Phil set his bar on the highest rung, on a rung above the highest rung. He pushed himself relentlessly until finally his efforts virtually redefined the very endeavour we call acting. That's what he wanted. He wanted to rock the world."

As Broadway lamented, the criminal justice system quickly acted with arrests that came just days into the high-profile case, reflecting the attention and urgency it has attracted. At least one of those arrested during the probe into Hoffman's suspected fatal heroin overdose had the actor's cellphone number, two law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Investigators zeroed in on the four after a tipster, responding to publicity about Hoffman's death, told police he had seen Hoffman at the lower Manhattan apartment building where they were arrested on Tuesday and he believed that's where Hoffman got the heroin, the officials said. In searches of two apartments in the building, police found hundreds of packets of heroin in one of them, according to a criminal complaint.

But prosecutors declined to pursue charges against one of the four, saying there was no evidence that he had control of the drugs or the apartment in which they were found, and two of the others were charged only with a misdemeanour charge of possessing cocaine, not heroin. Only one, jazz musician Robert Vineberg, was facing a felony charge of heroin possession with intent to sell.

Lawyers for the three people charged vigorously denied their clients had any role in Hoffman's death and suggested they were being swept up in a maelstrom of attention surrounding the actor's demise.

"This case and the charges against Mr. Vineberg have absolutely nothing to do with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. ... We're hoping the (district attorney) will not use Mr. Vineberg as a scapegoat," said his lawyer, Edward Kratt, who declined to say whether Vineberg knew Hoffman.

All three of the people charged were indicted within a day after their arrests, a somewhat unusual step, and were being held without bail. The two charged with cocaine possession, Juliana Luchkiw and Max Rosenblum, a couple who are neighbours of Vineberg's, were visibly dismayed when a judge denied them bail, though their lawyers hoped to revisit the issue Thursday.

"She's not a drug dealer. She's a college student," attending a design school, said Luchkiw's lawyer, Stephen Turano.

Rosenblum's lawyer, Daniel Hochheiser, said his client "has nothing to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman."

Luchkiw and Rosenbaum had two bags of cocaine, while investigators found about 300 packets of heroin, a bag of cocaine and about $1,200 in cash in Vineberg's apartment, according to criminal complaints.

Investigators have determined that the "Capote" star made six ATM transactions for a total of $1,200 inside a supermarket near his home the day before his death, law enforcement officials have said. Investigators are examining a computer and two iPads found at the scene for clues and recovered syringes, a charred spoon and various prescription medications, including a blood pressure drug and a muscle relaxant, law enforcement officials have said.

Police learned from phone records that one of the suspects had Hoffman's number, strengthening the theory that they may have supplied him with drugs, the law enforcement officials said. The officials, who weren't authorized to speak about evidence in the ongoing investigation of the death and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, didn't identify which of the suspects had the number.

Some of the packets found in Hoffman's apartment were variously stamped with the ace of hearts and others with the ace of spades. Those found in the building where the arrests occurred had different brand names, including Black List and Panda, the officials said.

Police were waiting for a cause of death for the Oscar-winning actor from the medical examiner's office, which said on Wednesday that more tests were needed.

Hoffman, 46, was found dead Sunday with a needle in his arm, and tests found heroin in samples from at least 50 packets in his apartment in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, law enforcement officials have said.

A private funeral for relatives and close friends of Hoffman is set for Friday, and a larger memorial service will be held later this month, said his publicist, Karen Samfilippo.

___

Associated Press Writer Jake Pearson and AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.

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